Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk. The cornerstone of refugee protection is the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which defines “refugee” as someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.(Art 1)

The protection of refugees has many aspects. These include safety from being returned to danger, access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and measures to ensure that their basic human rights are respected while they secure a longer-term solution.

In 2019, the number of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate rose to 20.4 million.

UNHCR has been providing protection and assistance to refugees for 70 years.

What is the difference between “refugees” and “migrants”?


Following the violent breakup of SFRY, UNHCR stepped up its operation to assist the authorities and help find durable solutions to more than 600,000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina that fled into in the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

After more than 25 years, the majority of them have either integrated in Serbia or returned to their countries of origin. In 2007, UNHCR and the authorities of Serbia helped design and kick-start the joint regional durable solutions programme – RHP – to put an end to the displacement in the region. By mid-2022 the last of the most vulnerable refugees will have found a durable solution through implementation of the Regional Housing Programme

Refugees and persons granted subsidiary protection in the Republic of Serbia enjoy rights set out in the 2018 Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection. They receive support from the responsible state institutions, civil society organizations and UNHCR.

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